When people think of avocadoes, they often think of guacamole, that luscious tortilla chip accompaniment that combines the yellowish green fruit with spices, lemon juice and other ingredients from the avocado's native Mexico.

But we should also consider some avocado nutrition facts and benefits. The avocado — produced in subtropical climates including southern Spain, Australia, Peru, Ecuador, California, Arizona and Florida — is versatile, nutrient-dense and popular throughout the world.

California produces most of the avocadoes grown in the United States. One-fifth of an avocado, typically considered a serving, contains:

  • 50 calories
  • 4.5 g of fat
  • Nearly 20 nutrients including potassium, vitamin K, folate, B vitamins and vitamin C
  • No cholesterol
While almost three-quarters of the avocado's calories come from fat, most of it is healthy fat. More specifically, the avocado contains monounsaturated fats are known to reduce low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol and are believed to help increase the good kind of cholesterol, high-density lipoproteins (HDL's).

The avocado also has 60 percent more potassium than a banana. In addition, the avocado’s nutritional composition includes a large amount of fiber. Almost three-quarters of that fiber is insoluble with the rest being soluble fiber. Without getting too detailed, let’s just say all that insoluble fiber helps things go smoothly in the bathroom.

Brought from Mexico

California produces most of the avocadoes grown in the United States. A Santa Barbara judge first brought Mexican avocado trees to the state in 1871, and today, the bumpy, rough-skinned fruit with the tender flesh is harvested year-round on approximately 60,000 acres from San Luis Obispo through San Diego by about 6,000 growers, according to the California Avocado Commission. Most trees on average produce around 60 pounds of fruit annually, or 150 pieces.

How do you select a ripe avocado? And what — besides whip up the perfect guac recipe — can you do with it? First, squeeze the fruit gently. It should be firm but yield to gentle pressure. Avoid an avocado that has overly dark skin or is too soft when pressed. If you plan to eat your avocado in a few days, pick hard ones and place them in a brown paper bag at room temperature for two to five days to ripen.

Versatile uses in the kitchen

Many people enjoy a raw, ripe avocado by itself. Simply cut lengthwise, scoop out the pit, squeeze some lemon or lime juice on the flesh and grab a spoon. Avocados also are delicious whipped into milkshakes or smoothies, cut into slices on top of burgers or cut into salads. Since California is known for its avocados, the fruit is also an ingredient in the California sushi roll.

Recipes for the avocado abound, both on general cooking and food websites as well as the site for the California Avocado Commission, which, in keeping with the avocado's Mexican heritage and popularity, features more than 100 different recipes for guacamole.

Know more about avocado nutritional benefits? Leave us a note in the comments below.

More nutrition facts on MNN:

MNN homepage photo: jamailac/Flickr